ITALY NEWS

An offer you can't refuse

Mafia-themed merchandise is selling big
(issue no. 38/2006 / July 27, 2006)
Sicilian retailers are turning the tables on negative stereotypes about Italy and organized crime, by using the Mafia name to make hon-est cash. A number of shops have started selling t-shirts that play on the island’s notorious links with Cosa Nostra, rather than play-ing them down. They say they are particularly popular with foreign tourists. One of the best sellers is a t-shirt which boldly states ‘Mafia - Made in Italy’. ‘We have been selling them since the beginning of May and they’ve been going really well,’ said Giovanni Ceraulo, manager of the main Prima Visione branch in the city centre. ‘On average we sell 10 a day, even though the price of 32 euro is quite high.’ Another shop on the city’s Via Bandiera has just started peddling an array of different Mafia souvenirs. These include t-shirts with ‘Gangster’ emblazoned on the chest in big letters and others that take pride in giving PR to the likes of Al Capone.

The Cosa Nostra Tipico Style Italiano brand argues that its goods do not glorify the organized-crime world. ‘It is an ironic look at the stereotypes that form the tissue of the Italian way of life. Our aim is to show a certain rejection of (public) institutions, and of every-thing that is forced upon us by society. At the same time, we seek to present an ironic view of something that is feared so much, like Cosa Nostra.

Some Italian politicians are not convinced. Centre-left MP Franco Piro and Senator Giuseppe Di Lello said they are going to make a formal request to the authorities to stop the selling of the shirts. The release of a videogame called ‘Mafia’ also caused outrage in 2004, with even the Sicilian government entering the fray. Similar protests were heard in November 2005 when a German-based com-pany released a third CD of so-called ‘Mafia music’. Italians have grown accustomed to the world’s fascination with the traditional Sicilian Mob, but until recently have generally avoided buying into it.

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